OETA, Oklahoma Conservation Partnership launch Dust Bowl Education Project

The statewide outreach effort is inspired by the fall debut of a new PBS documentary, THE DUST BOWL, from filmmaker Ken Burns.

image of dust bowl smoke

The Oklahoma Network and the Oklahoma Conservation Partnership consisting of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have launched a statewide community engagement initiative to explore the history and lessons of Oklahoma’s experience of the Dust Bowl.

The project was developed to work in conjunction with the fall premiere of a new PBS documentary from iconic filmmaker Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball, The War). THE DUST BOWL, premiering November 18 at 7 p.m. on OETA, primarily focuses on Oklahoma and the state’s Dust Bowl survivors.

“OACD and the rest of the Conservation Partnership are excited to be a part of this important event,” said OACD Executive Director Clay Pope.  “It’s been said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  It’s important that we tell the story of the struggles of the Dust Bowl and the heroic work that was done to turn back the tide of dust while remembering that we must remain vigilant to protect our soil, water, air and wildlife habitats.”

John McCarroll, OETA executive director, said the partnership with OACD and the Conservation Partnership will help create a larger discussion around important topics addressed in the film.

THE DUST BOWL examines, through the stories of people who lived through the period, the experience of the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history. The two-part, four hour film documents the history of the Dust Bowl, as well as its causes, but focuses primarily on the personal stories of survival – how Oklahomans lived, worked and persevered.

“While the film is very much a historical documentary – focused on the past – the subjects of conservation and sustainability are highly relevant today,” McCarroll said. “Built on the essential themes explored by the film, THE DUST BOWL project presents a unique opportunity for rich community discussion and engagement about the past and current environmental challenges facing Oklahoma.”

Mike Thralls, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission agreed.

“The Dust Bowl was a landmark event in the history of our state. It is important that all Oklahomans understand this piece of our history,” Thralls said.  “The release of the Ken Burns’ documentary on the Dust Bowl provides a tremendous opportunity for Oklahomans to learn that each of us by our actions can destroy the land or with proper conservation efforts we can make it both productive and sustainable for future generations.”

THE DUST BOWL effort will include screenings and panel discussions across the state, locally produced Dust Bowl content, customized classroom materials, survivor story collection, social networking and multi-media projects, including a comprehensive project website ( that will feature event details and community resources.

“OETA is excited to use THE DUST BOWL community engagement initiative as a vehicle to educate Oklahomans statewide – in the classroom and in the community – about the legacy of the Dust Bowl and to connect its impact to our current environmental reality,” McCarroll said. “We hope Oklahomans of all ages will take the opportunity to participate in this important conversation to learn about our state’s history, to appreciate our spirit and perseverance and to help plan our future.”

About OETA-The Oklahoma Network

Through quality educational content and services, OETA-The Oklahoma Network engages Oklahomans to explore the world around them and encourages lifelong learning. Explore to access Oklahoma content, community resources and program schedules.

The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) is an organization representing Oklahoma’s 87 local conservation districts, their board members, employees and their landowner cooperators.   OACD provides leadership, resources, and partnership opportunities for conservation districts and those who manage the land to enhance our natural resources for a better Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission is the state agency responsible for natural resource management. The agency’s mission is to conserve, protect and restore Oklahoma’s natural resources in collaboration with the conservation districts and other partners, on behalf of the citizens of Oklahoma.  The agency and local conservation districts were created in response to the Dust Bowl in 1937.  For the past 75 years, we have worked in partnership with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) to provide assistance to landowners to address natural resource problems on their land.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works hand in hand with the other members of the Conservation Partnership (OACD, OCC, and local Conservation Districts) in delivering conservation on the land with participating agricultural producers through cost-share programs authorized by the Farm Bill.  NRCS and the Oklahoma Conservation Partnership have been recognized nationally as a leader in “Helping People Help the Land” since 1935. NRCS has offices in all 77 counties in Oklahoma, with the State Office located in Stillwater.